Jane Austen, Her Life and Letters

A Family Record

Chapter XVI

Mansfield Park


Jane was now about to pay what proved to be her last visit to Godmersham. On the way thither she, with one division of the Knight family party, halted for a couple of days in London, to stay with Henry at 10 Henrietta Street.

Henrietta Street:
Wednesday [September 15, 1813, 1/2 past 8].

Here I am, my dearest Cassandra, seated in the breakfast-, dining-, sitting-room, beginning with all my might. Fanny will join me as soon as she is dressed and begin her letter.

We arrived at a quarter-past four, and were kindly welcomed by the coachman, and then by his master, and then by William, and then by Mrs. Perigord,[257] who all met us before we reached the foot of the stairs. Mde. Bigeon was below dressing us a most comfortable dinner of soup, fish, bouillée, partridges, and an apple tart, which we sat down to soon after five, after cleaning and dressing ourselves, and feeling that we were most commodiously disposed of. The little adjoining dressing-room to our apartment makes Fanny and myself very well off indeed, and as we have poor Eliza's bed our space is ample every way.

Lady Robert is delighted with P. and P.,[258] and really was so, as I understand, before she knew who wrote it, for, of course, she knows now. He told her with as much satisfaction as if it were my wish. He did not tell me this, but he told Fanny. And Mr. Hastings! I am quite delighted with what such a man writes about it. Henry sent him the books after his return from Daylesford, but you will hear the letter too.

* * * * *

Fanny and the two little girls are gone to take places for to-night at Covent Garden; Clandestine Marriage and Midas. The latter will be a fine show for L. and M.[259] They revelled last night in Don Juan, whom we left in hell at half-past eleven. We had scaramouch and a ghost, and were delighted. I speak of them; my delight was very tranquil, and the rest of us were sober-minded. Don Juan was the last of three musical things. Five Hours at Brighton, in three acts--of which one was over before we arrived, none the worse--and the Beehive, rather less flat and trumpery.

* * * * *

Miss Hare had some pretty caps, and is to make me one like one of them, only white satin instead of blue. It will be white satin and lace, and a little white flower perking out of the left ear, like Harriot Byron's feather. I have allowed her to go as far as £1 16s. My gown is to be trimmed everywhere with white ribbon plaited on somehow or other. She says it will look well. I am not sanguine. They trim with white very much.

* * * * *

Mr. Hall was very punctual yesterday, and curled me out at a great rate. I thought it looked hideous, and longed for a snug cap instead, but my companions silenced me by their admiration.

We had very good places in the box next the stage-box, front and second row; the three old ones behind of course. I was particularly disappointed at seeing nothing of Mr. Crabbe. I felt sure of him when I saw that the boxes were fitted up with crimson velvet.

* * * * *

It was not possible for me to get the worsteds yesterday. I heard Edward last night pressing Henry to come to [? Godmersham], and I think Henry engaged to go there after his November collection.[260] Nothing has been done as to S. and S. The books came to hand too late for him to have time for it before he went.

* * * * *

I long to have you hear Mr. H.'s opinion of P. and P. His admiring my Elizabeth so much is particularly welcome to me.

Miss Austen, Chawton.

Her delight at the appreciation of her book by Warren Hastings may be compared with a passage from Madame d'Arblay's diary, which forms a curious link between the two writers.

Mrs. Cooke [Jane Austen's cousin], my excellent neighbour, came in just now to read me a paragraph of a letter from Mrs. Leigh of Oxfordshire, her sister.[261] . . . After much civility about the new work [Camilla] and its author, it finishes thus: 'Mr. Hastings I saw just now; I told him what was going forward; he gave a great jump and exclaimed: "Well, then, now I can serve her, thank heaven, and I will! I will write to Anderson to engage Scotland, and I will attack the East Indies myself."'[262]

Henrietta Street:
Thursday [September 16, 1813, after dinner].

Thank you, my dearest Cassandra, for the nice long letter I sent off this morning.

* * * * *

We are now all four of us young ladies sitting round the circular table in the inner room writing our letters, while the two brothers are having a comfortable coze in the room adjoining. It is to be a quiet evening, much to the satisfaction of four of the six. My eyes are quite tired of dust and lamps.

* * * * *

We . . . went to Wedgwood's, where my brother and Fanny chose a dinner set. I believe the pattern is a small lozenge in purple, between lines of narrow gold, and it is to have the crest.

* * * * *

With love to you all, including Triggs,[263] I remain,

Yours very affectionately,

The journey from London to Godmersham was no doubt duly narrated in a letter now missing. Those from Godmersham are filled with the ordinary comings and goings of a large family party, and allusions to Kent neighbours--of whom Cassandra would know just enough to be interested in their proceedings.

Godmersham Park:
Thursday [September 23, 1813].

MY DEAREST CASSANDRA,--Thank you five hundred and forty times for the exquisite piece of workmanship which was brought into the room this morning, while we were at breakfast, with some very inferior works of art in the same way, and which I read with high glee, much delighted with everything it told, whether good or bad. It is so rich in striking intelligence that I hardly know what to reply to first. I believe finery must have it.

I am extremely glad that you like the poplin. I thought it would have my mother's approbation, but was not so confident of yours. Remember that it is a present. Do not refuse me. I am very rich.

* * * * *

Let me know when you begin the new tea, and the new white wine. My present elegancies have not yet made me indifferent to such matters. I am still a cat if I see a mouse.

* * * * *

''Tis night, and the landscape is lovely no more,' but to make amends for that, our visit to the Tyldens is over. My brother, Fanny, Edwd., and I went; Geo. stayed at home with W. K. There was nothing entertaining, or out of the common way. We met only Tyldens and double Tyldens. A whist-table for the gentlemen, a grown-up musical young lady to play backgammon with Fanny, and engravings of the Colleges at Cambridge for me. In the morning we returned Mrs. Sherer's visit. I like Mr. S.[264] very much.

* * * * *

Poor Dr. Isham is obliged to admire P. and P., and to send me word that he is sure he shall not like Madame D'Arblay's new novel[265] half so well. Mrs. C[ooke] invented it all, of course. He desires his compliments to you and my mother.

* * * * *

I am now alone in the library, mistress of all I survey; at least I may say so, and repeat the whole poem if I like it, without offence to anybody.

I have this moment seen Mrs. Driver driven up to the kitchen door. I cannot close with a grander circumstance or greater wit.

Yours affectionately,
J. A.
Miss Austen, Chawton.

The next of Jane's surviving letters was addressed to her brother Frank.

Godmersham Park [September 25, 1813].[266]

MY DEAREST FRANK,--The 11th of this month brought me your letter, and I assure you I thought it very well worth its two and three-pence. I am very much obliged to you for filling me so long a sheet of paper; you are a good one to traffic with in that way, you pay most liberally; my letter was a scratch of a note compared to yours, and then you write so even, so clear, both in style and penmanship, so much to the point, and give so much intelligence, that it is enough to kill one. I am sorry Sweden is so poor, and my riddle so bad. The idea of a fashionable bathing-place in Mecklenberg! How can people pretend to be fashionable or to bathe out of England? Rostock market makes one's mouth water; our cheapest butcher's meat is double the price of theirs; nothing under nine-pence all this summer, and I believe upon recollection nothing under ten-pence. Bread has sunk and is likely to sink more, which we hope may make meat sink too. But I have no occasion to think of the price of bread or of meat where I am now; let me shake off vulgar cares and conform to the happy indifference of East Kent wealth. I wonder whether you and the King of Sweden knew that I was come to Godmersham with my brother. Yes, I suppose you have received due notice of it by some means or other. I have not been here these four years, so I am sure the event deserves to be talked of before and behind, as well as in the middle. We left Chawton on the 14th, spent two entire days in town, and arrived here on the 17th. My brother, Fanny, Lizzie, Marianne and I composed this division of the family, and filled his carriage inside and out. Two post-chaises, under the escort of George, conveyed eight more across the country, the chair brought two, two others came on horseback, and the rest by coach, and so by one means or another, we all are removed. It puts me in remind of St. Paul's shipwreck, when all are said, by different means, to reach the shore in safety. I left my mother, Cassandra, and Martha well, and have had good accounts of them since. At present they are quite alone, but they are going to be visited by Mrs. Heathcote and Miss Bigg, and to have a few days of Henry's company likewise.

* * * * *

Of our three evenings in town, one was spent at the Lyceum, and another at Covent Garden. The Clandestine Marriage was the most respectable of the performances, the rest were sing-song and trumpery; but it did very well for Lizzie and Marianne, who were indeed delighted, but I wanted better acting. There was no actor worth naming. I believe the theatres are thought at a very low ebb at present. Henry has probably sent you his own account of his visit in Scotland. I wish he had had more time, and could have gone further north, and deviated to the lakes on his way back; but what he was able to do seems to have afforded him great enjoyment, and he met with scenes of higher beauty in Roxburghshire than I had supposed the South of Scotland possessed. Our nephew's gratification was less keen than our brother's. Edward is no enthusiast in the beauties of nature. His enthusiasm is for the sports of the field only. He is a very promising and pleasing young man, however, behaves with great propriety to his father, and great kindness to his brothers and sisters, and we must forgive his thinking more of grouse and partridges than lakes and mountains.

* * * * *

In this house there is a constant succession of small events, somebody is always going or coming; this morning we had Edward Bridges unexpectedly to breakfast with us, on his way from Ramsgate, where is his wife, to Lenham, where is his church, and to-morrow he dines and sleeps here on his return. They have been all the summer at Ramsgate for her health; she is a poor honey--the sort of woman who gives me the idea of being determined never to be well and who likes her spasms and nervousness, and the consequence they give her, better than anything else. This is an ill-natured statement to send all over the Baltic. The Mr. Knatchbulls, dear Mrs. Knight's brothers, dined here the other day. They came from the Friars, which is still on their hands. The elder made many inquiries after you. Mr. Sherer is quite a new Mr. Sherer to me; I heard him for the first time last Sunday, and he gave us an excellent sermon, a little too eager sometimes in his delivery, but that is to me a better extreme than the want of animation, especially when it evidently comes from the heart, as in him. The clerk is as much like you as ever. I am always glad to see him on that account. But the Sherers are going away. He has a bad curate at Westwell, whom he can eject only by residing there himself. He goes nominally for three years, and a Mr. Paget is to have the curacy of Godmersham; a married man, with a very musical wife, which I hope may make her a desirable acquaintance to Fanny.

I thank you very warmly for your kind consent to my application,[267] and the kind hint which followed it. I was previously aware of what I should be laying myself open to; but the truth is that the secret has spread so far as to be scarcely the shadow of a secret now, and that, I believe, whenever the third appears, I shall not even attempt to tell lies about it. I shall rather try to make all the money than all the mystery I can of it. People shall pay for their knowledge if I can make them. Henry heard P. and P. warmly praised in Scotland by Lady Robert Kerr and another lady; and what does he do, in the warmth of his brotherly vanity and love, but immediately tell them who wrote it? A thing once set going in that way--one knows how it spreads, and he, dear creature, has set it going so much more than once. I know it is all done from affection and partiality, but at the same time let me here again express to you and Mary my sense of the superior kindness which you have shown on the occasion in doing what I wished. I am trying to harden myself. After all, what a trifle it is, in all its bearings, to the really important points of one's existence, even in this world.

Your very affectionate sister,
J. A.

There is to be a second edition of S. and S. Egerton advises it.

* * * * *

The last paragraph of this letter sets two things plainly before us: a strong preference for remaining unknown if she could, and the invariable sweetness of temper which forbade her to blame a brother whom she loved because he had made such concealment impossible. That this acquiescence, however, was not reached without a struggle the last few words of the paragraph show.

Next follows a letter to Cassandra, dated Monday (October 11):--

We had our dinner party on Wednesday, with the addition of Mrs. and Miss Milles. . . . Both mother and daughter are much as I have always found them. I like the mother--first, because she reminds me of Mrs. Birch; and, secondly, because she is cheerful and grateful for what she is at the age of ninety and upwards. The day was pleasant enough. I sat by Mr. Chisholme, and we talked away at a great rate about nothing worth hearing.

* * * * *

Lizzie is very much obliged to you for your letter and will answer it soon, but has so many things to do that it may be four or five days before she can. This is quite her own message, spoken in rather a desponding tone. Your letter gave pleasure to all of us; we had all the reading of it of course, I three times, as I undertook, to the great relief of Lizzie, to read it to Sackree,[268] and afterwards to Louisa.

* * * * *

Mrs. ---- called here on Saturday. I never saw her before. She is a large, ungenteel woman, with self-satisfied and would-be elegant manners.

* * * * *

On Thursday, Mr. Lushington,[269] M.P. for Canterbury, and manager of the Lodge Hounds, dines here, and stays the night. He is chiefly young Edward's acquaintance. If I can I will get a frank from him, and write to you all the sooner. I suppose the Ashford ball will furnish something.

* * * * *

I am looking over Self-Control again, and my opinion is confirmed of its being an excellently-meant, elegantly-written work, without anything of nature or probability in it. I declare I do not know whether Laura's passage down the American river is not the most natural, possible, everyday thing she ever does.

* * * * *

Tuesday.--I admire the sagacity and taste of Charlotte Williams. Those large dark eyes always judge well. I will compliment her by naming a heroine after her.

* * * * *

Southey's Life of Nelson: I am tired of Lives of Nelson, being that I never read any. I will read this, however, if Frank is mentioned in it.

[October 14, 1813.]

Now I will prepare for Mr. Lushington, and as it will be wisest also to prepare for his not coming, or my not getting a frank, I shall write very close from the first, and even leave room for the seal in the proper place. When I have followed up my last with this I shall feel somewhat less unworthy of you than the state of our correspondence now requires.

* * * * *

Mr. W. is about five-or six-and-twenty, not ill-looking, and not agreeable. He is certainly no addition. A sort of cool, gentlemanlike manner, but very silent. They say his name is Henry, a proof how unequally the gifts of fortune are bestowed. I have seen many a John and Thomas much more agreeable.

* * * * *

We did not go to the ball.[270] It was left to her to decide, and at last she determined against it. She knew that it would be a sacrifice on the part of her father and brothers if they went, and I hope it will prove that she has not sacrificed much. It is not likely that there should have been anybody there whom she would care for. I was very glad to be spared the trouble of dressing and going, and being weary before it was half over, so my gown and my cap are still unworn. It will appear at last, perhaps, that I might have done without either. I produced my brown bombazine yesterday, and it was very much admired indeed, and I like it better than ever.

* * * * *

The comfort of the billiard-table here is very great; it draws all the gentlemen to it whenever they are within, especially after dinner, so that my brother, Fanny, and I have the library to ourselves in delightful quiet.

* * * * *

Friday.--They[271] came last night at about seven. We had given them up, but I still expected them to come. Dessert was nearly over; a better time for arriving than an hour and a half earlier. They were late because they did not set out earlier, and did not allow time enough. Charles did not aim at more than reaching Sittingbourne by three, which could not have brought them here by dinner time. They had a very rough passage; he would not have ventured if he had known how bad it would be.

* * * * *

However, here they are, safe and well, just like their own nice selves, Fanny looking as neat and white this morning as possible, and dear Charles all affectionate, placid, quiet, cheerful good humour. They are both looking very well, but poor little Cassy is grown extremely thin, and looks poorly. I hope a week's country air and exercise may do her good. I am sorry to say it can be but a week. The baby does not appear so large in proportion as she was, nor quite so pretty, but I have seen very little of her. Cassy was too tired and bewildered just at first to seem to know anybody. We met them in the hall--the women and girl part of us--but before we reached the library she kissed me very affectionately, and has since seemed to recollect me in the same way.

It was quite an evening of confusion, as you may suppose. At first we were all walking about from one part of the house to the other; then came a fresh dinner in the breakfast-room for Charles and his wife, which Fanny and I attended; then we moved into the library, were joined by the dining-room people, were introduced, and so forth; and then we had tea and coffee, which was not over till past 10. Billiards again drew all the odd ones away, and Edward, Charles, the two Fannies, and I sat snugly talking. I shall be glad to have our numbers a little reduced, and by the time you receive this we shall be only a family, though a large family, party. Mr. Lushington goes to-morrow.

Now I must speak of him, and I like him very much. I am sure he is clever, and a man of taste. He got a volume of Milton last night, and spoke of it with warmth. He is quite an M.P., very smiling, with an exceeding good address and readiness of language. I am rather in love with him. I dare say he is ambitious and insincere. He puts me in mind of Mr. Dundas. He has a wide smiling mouth, and very good teeth, and something the same complexion and nose.

[October 18, 1813.]

No; I have never seen the death of Mrs. Crabbe.[272] I have only just been making out from one of his prefaces that he probably was married. It is almost ridiculous. Poor woman! I will comfort him as well as I can, but I do not undertake to be good to her children. She had better not leave any.

October 26.

Our Canterbury scheme took place as proposed, and very pleasant it was--Harriot and I and little George within, my brother on the box with the master coachman.

* * * * *

Our chief business was to call on Mrs. Milles, and we had, indeed, so little else to do that we were obliged to saunter about anywhere and go backwards and forwards as much as possible to make out the time and keep ourselves from having two hours to sit with the good lady--a most extraordinary circumstance in a Canterbury morning.

Old Toke came in while we were paying our visit. I thought of Louisa. Miss Milles was queer as usual, and provided us with plenty to laugh at. She undertook in three words to give us the history of Mrs. Scudamore's reconciliation, and then talked on about it for half an hour, using such odd expressions, and so foolishly minute, that I could hardly keep my countenance.

* * * * *

Owing to a difference of clocks the coachman did not bring the carriage so soon as he ought by half an hour; anything like a breach of punctuality was a great offence, and Mr. Moore was very angry, which I was rather glad of. I wanted to see him angry; and, though he spoke to his servant in a very loud voice and with a good deal of heat, I was happy to perceive that he did not scold Harriot at all. Indeed, there is nothing to object to in his manners to her, and I do believe that he makes her--or she makes herself--very happy. They do not spoil their boy.

* * * * *

George Hatton[273] called yesterday, and I saw him, saw him for ten minutes; sat in the same room with him, heard him talk, saw him bow, and was not in raptures. I discerned nothing extraordinary. I should speak of him as a gentlemanlike young man--eh bien! tout est dit. We are expecting the ladies of the family this morning.

[November 3, 1813.]

I will keep this celebrated birthday by writing to you, and as my pen seems inclined to write large, I will put my lines very close together. I had but just time to enjoy your letter yesterday before Edward and I set off in the chair for Canty., and I allowed him to hear the chief of it as we went along.

* * * * *

But now I cannot be quite easy without staying a little while with Henry, unless he wishes it otherwise; his illness and the dull time of year together make me feel that it would be horrible of me not to offer to remain with him, and therefore unless you know of any objection, I wish you would tell him with my best love that I shall be most happy to spend ten days or a fortnight in Henrietta St., if he will accept me. I do not offer more than a fortnight, because I shall then have been some time from home; but it will be a great pleasure to be with him, as it always is.

* * * * *

Edward and I had a delightful morning for our drive there [to Canterbury], I enjoyed it thoroughly; but the day turned off before we were ready, and we came home in some rain and the apprehension of a great deal. It has not done us any harm, however. He went to inspect the gaol, as a visiting magistrate, and took me with him. I was gratified, and went through all the feelings which people must go through, I think, in visiting such a building. We paid no other visits, only walked about snugly together and shopped. I bought a concert ticket and a sprig of flowers for my old age.

* * * * *

What a convenient carriage Henry's is, to his friends in general! Who has it next? I am glad William's going is voluntary, and on no worse grounds. An inclination for the country is a venial fault. He has more of Cowper than of Johnson in him--fonder of tame hares and blank verse than of the full tide of human existence to Charing Cross.

Oh! I have more of such sweet flattery from Miss Sharp. She is an excellent kind friend. I am read and admired in Ireland, too. There is a Mrs. Fletcher, the wife of a judge, an old lady, and very good and very clever, who is all curiosity to know about me--what I am like, and so forth. I am not known to her by name, however. This comes through Mrs. Carrick, not through Mrs. Gore. You are quite out there.

I do not despair of having my picture in the Exhibition at last--all white and red, with my head on one side; or perhaps I may marry young Mr. D'Arblay. I suppose in the meantime I shall owe dear Henry a great deal of money for printing, &c.

I hope Mrs. Fletcher will indulge herself with S. and S.

November 6.

Having half an hour before breakfast (very snug in my own room, lovely morning, excellent fire--fancy me!) I will give you some account of the last two days. And yet, what is there to be told? I shall get foolishly minute unless I cut the matter short.

We met only the Bretons at Chilham Castle, besides a Mr. and Mrs. Osborne and a Miss Lee staying in the house, and were only fourteen altogether. My brother and Fanny thought it the pleasantest party they had ever known there, and I was very well entertained by bits and scraps.

* * * * *

By-the-bye, as I must leave off being young, I find many douceurs in being a sort of chaperon, for I am put on the sofa near the fire, and can drink as much wine as I like. We had music in the evening: Fanny and Miss Wildman played, and Mr. James Wildman sat close by and listened, or pretended to listen.

. . . Mrs. Harrison[274] and I found each other out, and had a very comfortable little complimentary friendly chat. She is a sweet woman--still quite a sweet woman in herself, and so like her sister! I could almost have thought I was speaking to Mrs. Lefroy. She introduced me to her daughter, whom I think pretty, but most dutifully inferior to la Mère Beauté.

* * * * *

I was just introduced at last to Mary Plumptre, but should hardly know her again. She was delighted with me, however, good enthusiastic soul! And Lady B. found me handsomer than she expected, so you see I am not so very bad as you might think for.

Since I wrote last, my 2nd edit.[275] has stared me in the face. Mary tells me that Eliza means to buy it. I wish she may. It can hardly depend upon any more Fyfield Estates. I cannot help hoping that many will feel themselves obliged to buy it. I shall not mind imagining it a disagreeable duty to them, so as they do it. Mary heard before she left home that it was very much admired at Cheltenham, and that it was given to Miss Hamilton.[276] It is pleasant to have such a respectable writer named. I cannot tire you, I am sure, on this subject, or I would apologise.

What weather, and what news![277] We have enough to do to admire them both. I hope you derive your full share of enjoyment from each.

* * * * *

Lady Eliz. Hatton and Annamaria called here this morning. Yes, they called; but I do not think I can say anything more about them. They came, and they sat, and they went.

* * * * *

Sunday.--Excellent sweetness of you to send me such a nice long letter; it made its appearance, with one from my mother, soon after I and my impatient feelings walked in. How glad I am that I did what I did! I was only afraid that you might think the offer superfluous, but you have set my heart at ease. Tell Henry that I will stay with him, let it be ever so disagreeable to him.

* * * * *

You shall hear from me once more, some day or other.

Yours very affectionately,
J. A.
Miss Austen, 10 Henrietta Street.

Even in the middle of this large family party, Jane was not likely to forget the literary profession which she had now seriously adopted. Indeed, it was just at this time that the second edition of Sense and Sensibility, on which she had ventured under the advice of her publisher Egerton, appeared.[278] According to our dates, she was not now actually engaged in regular composition--for Mansfield Park[279] was completed 'soon after June 1813,' and Emma was not begun till January 21, 1814. We may guess, however, that she was either putting a few humorous touches to Mrs. Norris and Lady Bertram, or else giving herself hints in advance for Miss Bates or Mr. Woodhouse; for we learn something of her process from an eyewitness, her niece Marianne Knight, who related her childish remembrances of her aunt not very many years ago. 'Aunt Jane,'[280] she said, 'would sit very quietly at work beside the fire in the Godmersham library, then suddenly burst out laughing, jump up, cross the room to a distant table with papers lying upon it, write something down, returning presently and sitting down quietly to her work again.' She also remembered how her aunt would take the elder girls into an upstairs room and read to them something that produced peals of laughter, to which the little ones on the wrong side of the door listened, thinking it very hard that they should be shut out from hearing what was so delightful! The laughter may have been the result of the second novel then published, for there is an entry in Fanny Knight's diary: 'We finished Pride and Prejudice'; or it may have been caused by a first introduction to Aunt Norris and Lady Bertram. Happy indeed were those who could hear their creator make her characters 'speak as they ought.' The dramatic element in her works is so strong that for complete enjoyment on a first acquaintance it is almost indispensable that they should be read aloud by some person capable of doing them justice. She had this power herself, according to the concurrent testimony of those who heard her, and she handed it on to her nephew, the author of the Memoir.

On November 13 Jane left Godmersham with Edward, spent two days with some connexions of his at Wrotham, and reached London on the 15th, in time to dine with Henry in Henrietta Street.

After that she had various plans; but we do not know which she adopted; and there is nothing further to tell of her movements until March 1814. We know, however, that Emma was begun in January; and that on March 2, when Henry drove his sister up to London, spending a night at Cobham on the way, he was engaged in reading Mansfield Park for the first time. Jane was of course eager to communicate Henry's impressions to Cassandra.

Henrietta Street: Wednesday [March 2, 1814].

MY DEAR CASSANDRA,--You were wrong in thinking of us at Guildford last night: we were at Cobham. On reaching G. we found that John and his horses were gone on. We therefore did no more there than we did at Farnham--sit in the carriage while fresh horses were put in--and proceeded directly to Cobham, which we reached by seven, and about eight were sitting down to a very nice roast fowl, &c. We had altogether a very good journey, and everything at Cobham was comfortable. I could not pay Mr. Herington! That was the only alas! of the business. I shall therefore return his bill, and my mother's £2, that you may try your luck. We did not begin reading till Bentley Green. Henry's approbation is hitherto even equal to my wishes. He says it is very different from the other two, but does not appear to think it at all inferior. He has only married Mrs. R. I am afraid he has gone through the most entertaining part. He took to Lady B. and Mrs. N. most kindly, and gives great praise to the drawing of the characters. He understands them all, likes Fanny, and, I think, foresees how it will all be. I finished the Heroine[281] last night, and was very much amused by it. I wonder James did not like it better. It diverted me exceedingly. We went to bed at ten. I was very tired, but slept to a miracle, and am lovely to-day, and at present Henry seems to have no complaint. We left Cobham at half-past eight, stopped to bait and breakfast at Kingston, and were in this house considerably before two, quite in the style of Mr. Knight. Nice smiling Mr. Barlowe met us at the door and, in reply to enquiries after news, said that peace was generally expected. I have taken possession of my bedroom, unpacked my bandbox, sent Miss P.'s two letters to the twopenny post, been visited by M^{de} Bigeon and am now writing by myself at the new table in the front room. It is snowing. We had some snowstorms[282] yesterday, and a smart frost at night, which gave us a hard road from Cobham to Kingston; but as it was then getting dirty and heavy, Henry had a pair of leaders put on from the latter place to the bottom of Sloane St. His own horses, therefore, cannot have had hard work. I watched for veils as we drove through the streets, and had the pleasure of seeing several upon vulgar heads. And now, how do you all do?--you in particular, after the worry of yesterday and the day before. I hope Martha had a pleasant visit again, and that you and my mother could eat your beef-pudding. Depend upon my thinking of the chimney-sweeper as soon as I wake to-morrow. Places are secured at Drury Lane for Saturday, but so great is the rage for seeing Kean[283] that only a third and fourth row could be got; as it is in a front box, however, I hope we shall do pretty well--Shylock, a good play for Fanny--she cannot be much affected, I think.

Mrs. Perigord has just been here. She tells me that we owe her master for the silk-dyeing. My poor old muslin has never been dyed yet. It has been promised to be done several times. What wicked people dyers are. They begin with dipping their own souls in scarlet sin. . . . It is evening. We have drank tea, and I have torn through the third vol. of the Heroine. I do not think it falls off. It is a delightful burlesque, particularly on the Radcliffe style. Henry is going on with Mansfield Park. He admires H. Crawford: I mean properly, as a clever, pleasant man. I tell you all the good I can, as I know how much you will enjoy it. . . . We hear that Mr. Kean is more admired than ever. . . . There are no good places to be got in Drury Lane for the next fortnight, but Henry means to secure some for Saturday fortnight, when you are reckoned upon. Give my love to little Cass. I hope she found my bed comfortable last night. I have seen nobody in London yet with such a long chin as Dr. Syntax, nor anybody quite so large as Gogmagoglicus.

Saturday [March 5, 1814].

Do not be angry with me for beginning another letter to you. I have read the Corsair, mended my petticoat, and have nothing else to do. Getting out is impossible. It is a nasty day for everybody. Edward's[284] spirits will be wanting sunshine, and here is nothing but thickness and sleet; and though these two rooms are delightfully warm, I fancy it is very cold abroad.

* * * * *

Sunday.--We were quite satisfied with Kean. I cannot imagine better acting, but the part was too short; and, excepting him and Miss Smith, and she did not quite answer my expectation, the parts were ill filled and the play heavy. We were too much tired to stay for the whole of Illusion ('Nour-jahad'), which has three acts; there is a great deal of finery and dancing in it, but I think little merit. Elliston was 'Nour-jahad,' but it is a solemn sort of part, not at all calculated for his powers. There was nothing of the best Elliston about him. I might not have known him but for his voice.

* * * * *

Henry has this moment said that he likes my M. P. better and better; he is in the third volume. I believe now he has changed his mind as to foreseeing the end; he said yesterday, at least, that he defied anybody to say whether H. C. would be reformed, or would forget Fanny in a fortnight.

I shall like to see Kean again excessively, and to see him with you too. It appeared to me as if there were no fault in him anywhere; and in his scene with 'Tubal' there was exquisite acting.

* * * * *

Monday.--You cannot think how much my ermine tippet is admired both by father and daughter. It was a noble gift.

Perhaps you have not heard that Edward has a good chance of escaping his lawsuit. His opponent 'knocks under.' The terms of agreement are not quite settled.

We are to see The Devil to Pay to-night. I expect to be very much amused. Excepting Miss Stephens, I daresay Artaxerxes will be very tiresome.

* * * * *

Tuesday.--Well, Mr. Hampson dined here, and all that. I was very tired of Artaxerxes, highly amused with the farce, and, in an inferior way, with the pantomime that followed. Mr. J. Plumptre joined in the latter part of the evening, walked home with us, ate some soup, and is very earnest for our going to Covent Garden again to-night to see Miss Stephens in the Farmer's Wife. He is to try for a box. I do not particularly wish him to succeed. I have had enough for the present. Henry dines to-day with Mr. Spencer.

Wednesday [March 9, 1814].

Well, we went to the play again last night, and as we were out a great part of the morning too, shopping, and seeing the Indian jugglers, I am very glad to be quiet now till dressing time. We are to dine at the Tilsons', and to-morrow at Mr. Spencer's.

We had not done breakfast yesterday when Mr. J. Plumptre appeared to say that he had secured a box. Henry asked him to dine here, which I fancy he was very happy to do, and so at five o'clock we four sat down to table together while the master of the house was preparing for going out himself. The Farmer's Wife is a musical thing in three acts, and, as Edward was steady in not staying for anything more, we were at home before ten.

Fanny and Mr. J. P. are delighted with Miss S[tephens], and her merit in singing is, I dare say, very great; that she gave me no pleasure is no reflection upon her, nor, I hope, upon myself, being what Nature made me on that article. All that I am sensible of in Miss S. is a pleasing person and no skill in acting. We had Mathews, Liston, and Emery; of course, some amusement.

Our friends were off before half-past eight this morning, and had the prospect of a heavy cold journey before them. I think they both liked their visit very much. I am sure Fanny did. Henry sees decided attachment between her and his new acquaintance.

* * * * *

Henry has finished Mansfield Park, and his approbation has not lessened. He found the last half of the last volume extremely interesting.

On Friday we are to be snug with only Mr. Barlowe and an evening of business. I am so pleased that the mead is brewed. Love to all. I have written to Mrs. Hill, and care for nobody.

Yours affectionately,

Henry must have read from a proof copy; for Mansfield Park was not yet published, though on the eve of being so. It was announced in the Morning Chronicle on May 23, and we shall see from the first letter in the next chapter that the Cookes had already been reading it before June 13. It was probably a small issue;[285] but whatever the size may have been, it was entirely sold out in the autumn.

The author broke new ground in this work, which (it should be remembered) was the first dating wholly from her more mature Chawton period. Though her novels were all of one type she had a remarkable faculty for creating an atmosphere--differing more or less in each book; and an excellent instance of this faculty is afforded by the decorous, though somewhat cold, dignity of Sir Thomas Bertram's household. In this household Fanny Price grows up, thoroughly appreciating its orderliness, but saved by Edmund's affection and her own warmhearted simplicity from catching the infection of its coldness. She required, however, an experience of the discomforts and vulgarity of Portsmouth to enable her to value to the full the home which she had left. In the first volume she had been too much of a Cinderella to take her proper position in the family party, and it was a real stroke of art to enhance the dignity of the heroine through the courtship of a rich and clever man of the world. A small point worth noticing in the third volume is the manner in which, when the horrible truth breaks in upon Fanny--and upon the reader--the tension is relaxed by Mrs. Price's commonplace remarks about the carpet.

Probably, most readers will look upon the theatricals and the Portsmouth episode as the most brilliant parts of the book; but the writing throughout is full of point, and the three sisters--Lady Bertram, Mrs. Norris, and Mrs. Price--are all productions of the author's most delicately barbed satire. Mrs. Norris, indeed, is an instance of her complex characters so justly praised by Macaulay. One thinks of her mainly as parsimonious; but her parsimony would be worth much less than it is, if it were not set off by her servility to Sir Thomas, her brutality to Fanny, and her undisciplined fondness for her other nieces. Lady Bertram is formed for the enjoyment of all her readers; and a pale example of what she might have become under less propitious circumstances is given by Mrs. Price. Mrs. Norris, we are told, would have done much better than Mrs. Price in her position. It must have given Jane Austen great pleasure to make this remark. None of her bad characters (except possibly Elizabeth Elliot) were quite inhuman to her, and to have found a situation in which Mrs. Norris might have shone would be a real satisfaction.

One more remark may be made on Mansfield Park. It affords what perhaps is the only[286] probable instance in these books of a portrait drawn from life. She must, one would think, have had in her mind her brother Charles--as he had been twelve or fourteen years earlier--when she drew so charming a sketch of a young sailor in William Price.

We must not forget, however, the author's strong denial of depicting individuals, and her declaration that she was too proud of her gentlemen 'to admit that they were only Mr. A. or Colonel B.'; nor yet her modest confession, when speaking of two of her favourites--Edmund Bertram and Mr. Knightley--that she was aware they were 'very far from what I know English gentlemen often are.'

Jane Austen may perhaps enjoy the distinction of having added words or expressions to colloquial English. The name 'Collins' is almost established as the description of a letter of thanks after a visit; and we have heard of a highly intelligent family among whom a guinea is always alluded to as 'something considerable' in memory of the sum believed (on the authority of the Memoir) to have been given to William Price by Aunt Norris.[287]


[257] 'Pengird' in Brabourne, but surely a misprint. Cf. Brabourne, ii. pp. 199, 266. Mme. Perigord and Mme. Bigeon were two of Eliza's French servants who stayed on with Henry until he moved to Hans Place.

[258] Lady Robert Kerr, whom Henry met in Scotland, and to whom he divulged the secret of his sister's authorship.

[259] Lizzie and Marianne Knight.

[260] Part of his duties as Receiver of Oxfordshire.

[261] These sisters were daughters of the Master of Balliol; and Mrs. Leigh was married to her first cousin, the Rev. Thomas Leigh, who succeeded to Stoneleigh. (See Leigh pedigree.)

[262] Madame d'Arblay to Dr. Burney, June 18, 1795.

[263] The keeper at Chawton.

[264] The Rector of Godmersham.

[265] The Wanderer.

[266] Sailor Brothers, p. 243.

[267] To be allowed to use the names of some of his ships in Mansfield Park.

[268] The old nurse at Godmersham.

[269] Stephen Rumbold Lushington, M.P. for Rye, 1807-12, and for Canterbury, 1812-30, and 1835-37; Privy Councillor; Governor of Madras.

[270] At Ashford; 'she' is Fanny.

[271] Charles and his party. He was now on the Namur as flag-captain to Sir Thomas Williams, and his wife and two small children were living with him on board.

[272] See p. 238. Mrs. Crabbe did not die until October 31, 1813 according to the Dictionary of National Biography.

[273] Afterwards Earl of Winchilsea.

[274] Sister to Mrs. Lefroy.

[275] Probably, of Pride and Prejudice.

[276] Probably Miss Elizabeth Hamilton (1758-1816), author of The Cottagers of Glenburnie, &c.

[277] (?) Battle of Leipzig, October 16-19, 1813.

[278] Also, one of Pride and Prejudice.

[279] Begun about Feb. 1811.

[280] Quoted by Miss Hill, p. 202.

[281] The Heroine, or the Adventures of Cherubina, by E. S. Barrett (2nd ed. 1814): a satire on Mrs. Radcliffe, in which a conspicuous part is played by an impostor called 'Whylome Eftsoons.'

[282] It is said to have been the hardest winter known for twenty years (Brabourne, vol. ii. p. 218).

[283] Kean had made his first appearance at Drury Lane on January 26, 1814, and had immediately taken the town by storm.

[284] Edward Knight and his daughter Fanny were to arrive that day.

[285] See p. 311.

[286] No doubt there were other cases in which particular traits of character were taken from those around her. Her brother Francis certainly thought that the domestic industry of Captain Harville (in Persuasion) was copied from himself. (Addenda to Sailor Brothers.)

[287] The Memoir calls it 'one pound.' The difference is not material, but Mrs. Norris would probably not be above giving herself the benefit of the doubt.